Can a Mala Have Less Than 108 Beads?

As a senior American woman, married for more than 40 years, I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures and spiritual practices. One such practice that has profoundly impacted my life is the use of mala beads. Particularly, I’ve been enchanted by the “White Jade Bodhi Seed Mala” from Buddha & Karma.

This mala, made of seeds from various sacred Bodhi plants, has helped me improve my focus during meditation, bringing me closer to my highest spiritual self​​. But, why does this mala have 108 beads, and can a mala have fewer beads?

The History and Significance of Mala Beads

The significance of beaded jewelry has been a part of humanity since our early days on Earth. Even in ancient times, around 8th century BCE, seers in India used beads to aid their meditation and prayers. These beads later came to be known as “mala beads” or “prayer beads”​​.

A mala is a string of beads, traditionally used to count mantras during meditation. They are often made from natural gemstones, crystals, pearls, wood, or seed beads, depending on personal preference or tradition​​. The term “Mala” comes from the Sanskrit language, translating to “garland” in English, and each bead helps in the meditative repetition of a mantra, a practice found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism​​.

The Significance of 108 Beads

The number 108 has significant spiritual and cosmological importance in various religions and traditions. According to the Mokugenji Sutra from the 4th century BCE, Buddha suggested that a king use a string of 108 beads to help his people understand the wisdom of Buddhism​.

Hinduism and Buddhism, while both utilizing malas with 108 beads, view the number’s symbolism differently. Hinduism draws on the cosmic significance of the number, seen as the basis of creation and representing the universe’s wholeness. Each chant of the mantra brings one unit closer to the spiritual self, bridging the gap between the material body and the God within us​.

In Buddhism, the number 108 signifies the human passions that impede enlightenment. It’s believed that there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 to the present, and 36 to the future​.

Can a Mala Have Less Than 108 Beads?

In light of the profound significance of the number 108, malas traditionally have this number of beads. Yet, it’s not uncommon to find malas with fewer beads, often 54 or 27, which are divisions of 108. These are typically used for shorter meditations or when the practitioner is on the go.

The Impact of the Mala on My Life

The White Jade Bodhi Seed Mala has become a precious tool in my life. It’s not just a spiritual accessory but a bridge to my inner self. As I glide each bead through my fingers during meditation, I feel a connection to the wisdom of ancient practices and a heightened sense of focus.

This small yet powerful tool has provided me with a way to slow down, meditate, and be more present in my everyday life. It’s a testament to the fact that sometimes, the simplest tools can lead to the most profound changes.

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